OT: Read Marc Reisner’s Cadillac Desert …

If this article is a surprise to you: Drought Settles In, Lake Shrinks and West’s Worries Grow

Those who worry most about the future of the West — politicians, scientists, business leaders, city planners and environmentalists — are increasingly realizing that a world of eternally blue skies and meager mountain snowpacks may not be a passing phenomenon but rather the return of a harsh climatic norm.

Continuing research into drought cycles over the last 800 years bears this out, strongly suggesting that the relatively wet weather across much of the West during the 20th century was a fluke. In other words, scientists who study tree rings and ocean temperatures say, the development of the modern urbanized West — one of the biggest growth spurts in the nation’s history — may have been based on a colossal miscalculation.

In other words, John Wesley Powell was right

In 1878, Powell published his Report on the Lands of the Arid Region, which laid out a concrete strategy for settling the West without fighting over scarce water. Powell wanted to stall the waves of homesteaders moving across the plains and mountains. Instead, he wanted to plan settlement based in part on the cooperative model practiced in Utah by Mormon settlers, who tapped mountain snowmelt and the streams, lakes and rivers it created with irrigation ditches leading to crops. Powell wanted to organize settlements around water and watersheds, which would force water users to conserve the scarce resource, because overuse or pollution would hurt everyone in the watershed. Powell believed this arrangement would also make communities better prepared to deal with attempts to usurp their water.

Of course, the issue is not whether Powell was right. Rather, it’s what do we do about it now?

Sort of like Iraq.

Related NYTimes piece: Where Engineering Trumps Nature, Science Seeks a Balance